Afghanistan's opium harvest this year has reached the highest levels recorded, showing an increase of 49 per cent from last year. The un office on Drugs and Crime (unodc) has described the figures as "alarming" and "very bad news" for the Afghan government and other international donors, who have poured millions of dollars to reduce the poppy crop since 2001. "The large increase in the cultivation by and large explains the exploding insurgency," says Antonio Maria Costa, the head of unodc. Most of the increase in poppy cultivation has occurred in five southern provinces where anti-us insurgency has spiked. As the insurgents have stepped up attacks, they have encouraged and profited from the drug trade, promising protection to growers, say media reports.President Hamid Karzai expressed disappointment and urged for international assistance to strengthen the Afghan law enforcement agencies.